AIR21 continues its quest for a place in the Top 4 when it clashes with San Miguel Beer in the PBA Governors Cup when action shifts to the Alonte Sports Arena on Saturday in Binan, Laguna.
The 5:15 p.m. match will be the first for the two teams since the Express, then the seventh seeds, ousted the twice-to-beat Beermen in the Commissioner’s Cup playoffs to reach the semifinals for the first time in franchise history.
The Bert Lina-owned franchise went on to push eventual champion San Mig to the full five games in the semifinals.
“As I’ve said, I’m not trying to be hypocrite. Our goal is to get a twice-to-beat advantage,” said Pumaren. “We have to take care of our own destiny, and a win will surely bolster our bid to achieve that goal.”
The Express enter the game tied for the fourth and fifth spots with idle Rain or Shine on 5-3 (win-loss) records while the Beermen are at 4-4 after dropping their last two outings.
A victory over the Beermen will give the Express the inside track on one of the Top Four berths and a twice-to-beat incentive heading to the last two playdates of the elims on Sunday and Monday.
Pumaren’s charges are coming off a heart-stopping 106-102 win over ousted GlobalPort in a game that saw Asi Taulava play through a deep cut on his forehead in the second half.
However, Pumaren said they are not taking the Beermen lightly despite the injury-riddled team dropping consecutive games to Meralco (74-90) and Barangay Ginebra (98-105).
“Facing a formidable team in San Miguel, we expect things to get tough. We know they’re also fighting for twice-to-beat (advantage), anything can still happen as teams are bunched up, even those on top.”
San Miguel active consultant Todd Purves said they are treating their last game of the eliminations more as an opportunity to prepare themselves for the playoffs, set to start next week.
The priority is to play good defense for the full 48 minutes, which Purves said the Beermen failed to do in their loss to the Gin Kings.
“Again, we have to be a defensive-minded team. We have to have a consistent defensive effort regardless if our shots fall or not,” Purves pointed out.
“We got a real tough game on Saturday, and obviously a good team in Air21. Then we go to the playoffs. But the most important thing is that you’re playing well come playoff time,” he added.
Purves said injured guards Marcio Lassiter and Chris Ross are both game-time decisions.